Chelsea can cope with hectic spell: Benitez

LONDON (AFP) - Rafael Benitez on Friday insisted Chelsea can cope with the strain of their gruelling fixture list as the Blues chase glory in two cups and aim for a top four finish in the Premier League.

Benitez's team have been drawn against Swiss side Basel in the Europa League semi-finals after edging past Rubin Kazan 5-4 on aggregate following a 3-2 defeat in Moscow on Thursday.

With an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City looming at Wembley on Sunday and then crucial Premier League trips to Fulham and Liverpool next week, Benitez knows Chelsea face a frantic spell that will define their season.

If Chelsea can beat City it means a cup double remains up for grabs for the Blues, who are two points ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal in the race to qualify for next season's Champions League.

"We were thinking which might be the best for us, in terms of the fixtures we have," Benitez said of the Basel tie.

"Basel is not too far away so maybe it's not a bad option, only because of that.

"They're a good team, an offensive team, and will be dangerous as well." Sunday's match against a City side who have not conceded a goal in this season's FA Cup will be Chelsea's sixth game in 16 days.

But while Benitez concedes City have the benefit of having rested while his players were travelling to Moscow, the Chelsea boss believes his team are maturing rapidly.

City beat Chelsea 2-0 in February at Eastlands, with Frank Lampard missing a penalty, but Benitez believes his team have learned from the experience.

"They're a good team in a good position in the table, and did well against Manchester United the other day. We know it'll be difficult but it's a semi-final in a massive competition," Benitez said.

"We know what we did wrong against them in the league and we'll make sure we don't make the same mistakes.

"They're a good team, a strong squad. They have a manager with experience and they have confidence at the moment. We know we'll have to do our best if we want to progress."

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